How to answer tough questions

A Loving God Wouldn't Send People to Hell

Conversation Stopper

First, it seems totally inconsistent with the idea that God is love. If God is love, wouldn’t God find a way to bring people everlasting joy and life instead? Second, is it really fair for finite mistakes or bad choices in this life to result in everlasting (eternal) punishment? The punishment doesn’t fit the crime. Third, has everyone even had a fair chance to learn about God and Jesus? Do those people get sent to hell because they grew up in the wrong country where no one believes in Christianity?

Assumptions

  • Christianity (if true) is evil if you believe God sends people to hell.
  • Christianity can’t be true because it is a contradiction to claim both that God is loving and that he sends people to hell.
  • If God sends people to hell he must be angry and capricious.
  • It doesn’t make any sense for God to create a world with billions of people knowing that many of them are going to end up in hell.
  • Hell makes God a failure if so many of his beloved creatures end up in hell forever.

Talking Points

The discussion about hell could go in one of two directions;

  1. Does God force people to go to Heaven?
  2. What is Hell and where does it begin?

Approach One

  • Do you think that God would force people who hate God and hate other people to go to Heaven? Would they want to be there?
  • God respects the dignity of people and their choices and won’t force anyone to be with him in eternity if they don’t want to.
  • God reveals himself in many ways including through creation, our conscience, as well as through the written Word, Scripture and through Jesus and people choose how they respond to this revelation.
  • God is loving but God is also just and holy. Would you be happy for a child molester to not go to jail? Should God say about Hitler, “Well, boys will be boys”?
  • How bad do you have to be to go to Hell?
  • Evil lies in the core of each person’s being.
  • It is as we understand the cross of Christ that we understand the extent of the evil within us. Jesus lived a sin free life then paid for our sin by taking it upon him self by his death. By his resurrection from the dead he over came the power of death, sin and Hell.
  • Why would any person refuse God’s offer to go to Heaven?

Approach Two

  • What do you think Hell is like?
  • The idea we often carry around in our heads about hell possibly comes more from Dante’s Inferno and art from the Middle Ages than from the Bible.
  • There are many images of hell in the Bible, but the clearest teaching is that hell is natural consequence of choices people make.
  • The essence of Heaven is a place where God is. The essence of Hell is the place where God is not. The best definition of hell is separation from God and therefore is terrible.
  • God does not send people to Hell. God honors our dignity and allows us to make a choice.
  • Those who put God at the center of their lives will have that extended into eternity.
  • Those who choose to reject God will have that extended into eternity also.
  • Whatever Hell is you do not want to go there. Through Jesus’ death and resurrection God made it possible for us to choose life with God today which extends into eternity.

Guidelines for Discussion

In any apologetic discussion, we need to listen closely and attempt to understand where the person is at the present time and where they are coming from. Often we need to listen more than talk. Our position should be that of wanting to know them and respond to their concerns rather than dump “answers” on them. We must maintain a stance of humility, of learning, free of arrogance and heartlessness. God “sending” people to Hell is huge to our Non Christian friends and probably the most frequently stated reason for not believing.

It is important to ask good questions of the person in order to understand where they are coming from, their experience in hearing/learning about Hell and what they think about it. There is often a need for us to ask for forgiveness on behalf of Christians for the way this topic has been communicated. And to maintain a stance and tone of grace and humility, acknowledging that but for God’s grace we would stand condemned before a Holy God.

In all apologetic discussions it is vital to live out a tone of wanting to hear and understand and to respond with the attitude of extending Jesus’ love to that person.

Possible Questions

  • What has been your exposure to hearing and teaching about Hell?
  • What do you think Hell is like?
  • What do you think about God? What is he like?
  • How do you think your predetermined ideas about God and Hell affect how you consider the topics?
  • In what ways do you think differently from God?
  • How might his justice exceed your justice?
  • How do you respond to the fact that God gave us the freedom to follow or not to follow him?
  • What makes you feel fearful?

Additional Resources

Check out this short video from Francis Chan about Hell and if God thinks the way we do about it.

 

Share in a comment below anymore resources you might find helpful on this subject.

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Comments

"burn in Hell" is not

"burn in Hell" is not scriptural as scripture does not say that. Where that phrase comes from is "Dante's Inferno" or The Divine Comedy. We people, Christian or not, need to be better researchers instead of listening to the words of people (who got it from somewhere else, etc.) and research for ourselves. Listening to what other people is how gossip gets started because people are gullible and take the easy way out and don't check our Bible concordances. Preachers get into theatrics at times and definitely in the past to make a point. We are response-able for our own learning and salvation (from how we think).
The Bible does say "Search the scriptures for in them you find [answers to your questions]..Don't believe someone's opinion on anything.....they don't know either and want to be 'right'. If you read the Bible, check your Concordance references. The most dangerous pastime in the world is passing on information based on what someone heard someone else say and it goes round and round. A like can get around the world faster than truth can get its shoes on.
If you are researching scripture, don't stop. In that you are automatically on the right track and the track will get you where you should be in your own thinking, not everybody else. You are responsible to your Maker only...He brought you in and He can take you out when He says so. It is easier to be constantly in touch with your Maker getting answers there only. You will see your progress only as you look backwards down the path you've walked in patience knowing God will give you your knowledge. Don't expect immediate answers as it takes time for us to see it most of the time as our reasoning grows.

As a Christian I have been

As a Christian I have been genuinely trying to find some answers concerning the truth behind this "idea" or "reality" of Hell for years. I have already seen all the explanations that Evangelists give to justify it.But even as a Christian I have had trouble seeing the"jusbehind eternal punishment. When looking at the definitions for the word "punishment" on Merriam Webster online I conclude that eternal punishment for an uneternal life (~18-120 yrs) of sin fits the definition that the website had for "cruel and unusual punishment" most accurately. This is just good old God-given common sense.

Also I have a big problem with the idea that lost people "choose" hell themselves so I will go there. This just doesn't make sense to me. The Bible does say that the lost world chooses sin and death over God and life, but nowhere does it say that they knowingly and willfully choose to burn in hell for eternity instead of walking on streets of gold. I mean let's just be honest and not trick people. The lost don't believe in Jesus or hell, hence they are lost. So to say they are choosing (hell) something they don't even believe in... well, it's lying.

Now I believe that all men (even athiests), know and believe in the existence of God/a creator, and that they have a choice that they make to believe in Him or not. But not hell. Even I, as a Christian, don't believe in hell. I believe in death and sin, so that's what Jesus died to save me from.
I want to know the truth, so I seek it. If hell is real, convince me, show me, explain to me the truth behind it. Please! Oh how I want it to make sense. Don't just tell me to believe because it says so. I believe in Jesus because it made sense to me that I needed salvation from sin. The truth then set me free from a lifestyle of sin that was leading me to death. In no way has a belief in eternal punishment had anything to do with me fearing God. I fear God because I know that without Him I die.
Please though, If believing in hell is necessary, or if believing in it will help my walk in any way please someone show me how you believe in it!